Civic Action

St. Louis Youth Connect Over Shared Passion for a More Just Community

February 15, 2017  • Youth Leadership Programs

The St. Louis Cohort of Aspen Young Leaders Fellows took to the Barry-Wehmiller Leadership Institute on Feb. 3 to kick off the two-year experience that is the Aspen Young Leaders Fellowship (AYLF). It was a weekend filled with learning and inspiration, as Fellows spent Friday and Saturday bonding through activities with AYLF and staff.

Fellows wasted no time breaking the ice at the B-W Leadership Institute. They filled the space with excitement and enthusiasm as they unpacked materials and worked through the agenda. Unprompted over breakfast, Fellows coordinated brief introductions as before the day got started.

The session began with Fellows unpacking The Declaration of Independence. In teams of six, Fellows adopted various points of view and made cases for what the document meant to relevant stakeholders. Next, Fellows reviewed the life and workings of Father Miguel Hidalgo. This is where things got interesting. To show what they had learned and how they interpreted the text on Hidalgo’s life, Fellows created story boards and acted out skits, and these young people are as talented as they are smart and inspirational.

See a couple fun clips of Fellows acting out skits of Fr. Miguel Hidalgo’s life.

Day one at the B-W Leadership Institute concluded with Fellows’ observations of how the Missouri Compromise that shaped their region affects the St. Louis they know today. Fellows were then joined by their families and supporters at Herbie’s Restaurant in Clayton where they shared their long-term visions for change in St. Louis and how ALYF will help them make that their visions realities.

On day two, Fellows reviewed the life and teachings of Mahatma Gandhi before discussing Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and Dr. King’s Letter From Birmingham City Jail. After facilitating discussions around each of these documents and the intricacies of the respective leadership styles, Fellows took turns advocating whether The Declaration of Independence, Father Miguel Hidalgo, Mahatma Gandhi, or Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. espoused the most effective leadership or strategy to spark change for millions of global citizens.

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“It was really amazing to see these young people come together, most of whom didn’t know anything about each other before the Fellowship, and begin to work through differences big and small toward one unified goal, to develop each other as leaders and work for a better St. Louis.”
— Youth & Engagement Programs Division Director, Tre Maxie

Fellows brought feelings of unity and openness to the space inside the Barry-Wehmiller Leadership Institute  as they shared personal life experiences.

One Fellow put it this way: “The broad variety of backgrounds, perspectives, and cultures represented here are profound. The youth of St. Louis are among all things, promising.”

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“I was particularly moved by the camaraderie that they were able to build in such a short period of time. Halfway through the second day of programming, they [Fellows] had organized a GroupMe and were sending around jokes and genuinely enjoying being together. They were genuinely enjoying each others’ company.”
— AYLF Program Director, Zakiya Reid

After a weekend filled with intellectual and emotional stimulation, Fellows expressed a thirst for more engagement and interaction with one another around issues of justice, inclusion, and equality, albeit after mental and emotional breaks and a good night’s rest.

“Absorbing ideas for the cause of better knowing who you are and discovering the true content of your character is less difficult being around such a [great] group of people,” said one AYLF St. Louis Fellow. “Humans are inherently imperfect and prone to flaws which we should all learn to tolerate. [This weekend I learned] that leadership is the last obstacle in the way of becoming an agent of change.”

AYLF St. Louis Fellows took ownership of the experience through their passion, enthusiasm, and openness. The next session of AYLF programming in St. Louis will take place Friday, April 28 through Sunday, April 30. For all things AYLF, keep up with Youth & Engagement Programs online, and on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.